How leaders deal with disappointment

From time to time, everyone must deal with disappointment. Sometimes dreams die. Things you planned just don’t work out like you thought they would. Apply that to marriage, a business, your health, children, or a host of other things in life.

Group leaders are in a position to help their group members deal effectively with the disappointments that come along in life. The story of David and his desire to build a temple for God shows us 5 ways for dealing with disappointment.

You remember the story, I’m sure. I Chronicles 17 records that David, after settling into his palace, became aware that he lived in luxury while the Lord’s ark was kept under a tent. Nathan the prophet told him, “Do all that is your heart to do, for God is with you” (v.1). David wanted to build a temple to honor the Lord and to give the ark a more permanent resting place. David had begun making big plans in his mind. Now he had the prophet’s green-light to proceed.

But soon after Nathan told David to proceed with his building plans, the Lord instructed Nathan to go back to David and tell him he would not be the one to build the Lord’s temple. That privilege would be given by the Lord to David’s son, Solomon. How did David deal with the disappointment of being removed from the building project? His example to us is helpful and instructive. It gives us five ways to approach disappointments when they take place. As wise leaders, we can help people we teach and lead to handle disappointments well, too.

  1. David looked back. Through Nathan the prophet, the Lord reminded David, “I have taken you from the pasture and from following the sheep to be ruler over My people Israel” (v.7). God reminded David that a quick look backwards in time would help him to see God’s activity in his life. David was encouraged as he remembered the ways God had blessed him. As I reflect back on my life, I can see the Lord’s hand at work in so many ways. Could we not all say “Who am I that God would have brought me this far?” What do you see when you look back in time? Can you see the hand of God in your life? When you deal with disappointment in the present, just look to your past and you’ll see many ways God has sustained you and guided you. It makes hearing His “no” in the present a little easier to handle.
  2. David looked around. David responded well to the disappointing news that he would not be the one to build the Lord a temple. Verse 19 records David saying, “Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house that you have brought me this far?” I imagine that today you and I live better than our parents ever did. We are likely more educated, more financially sound, and have been blessed in ways our parents never were. Just look around, and as the old hymn says, “count your many blessings, name them one by one…see what God has done.” This was David’s second way of dealing with disappointment.
  3. David looked inward. David refused to throw himself a pity party. He had looked back and he had looked around, and now he looked inward. “You regard me as a man of distinction” (v. 17). David knew that God’s “no” didn’t mean He did not love David. David knew he was valued by God, and that God had shown him great honor over the years. When things don’t go as planned, it is tempting to think that God might be punishing us or that He might be withholding His blessings because He is displeased with us. But David knew not to fall into that trap, and he reminded himself how good God had treated him over his lifetime. David knew he was valued by God and loved for who he was.
  4. David looked forward. “You have spoken about your servant’s house in the distant future” David declared in verse 17. He knew that good days were ahead, and that another member of his household, his son Solomon, would have the privilege of building the Lord’s temple. When we deal with disappointment, we tend to live in that moment. David showed us a better way to move beyond the circumstance by focusing on the future. God wasn’t through with David, nor was He through with David’s family. In fact, God was just getting started! We must tell ourselves that God has a bright future for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and that He has no plans to harm us.
  5. David looked up. After looking back, around, inward, and forward, David looked one final place -he looked up. He viewed God in  his glory and entered into a time of worship. “There is none like You, and there is no God besides You” David said in verse 20. How many people have you seen over the years get disappointing news and respond in anger? How many walked away from the Lord because of it? How many are still carrying wounds and scars today? David refused to do that. Instead, he found reasons to praise and worship God.

You’ll face disappointments in life. If you lead a Bible study group at your church, you will be called on to help the people you teach deal with their own disappointments. Job loss, miscarriages, divorce, wayward children, and a host of other things often create crisis moments for the people we lead. These 5 ways to respond to disappointment can help you maintain a strong relationship with God, and you just might be able to help others deal with their own disappointments, sharing insights from this tremendous story about King David and his response to a disappointing circumstance.



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